Paulo Bento Shows Some Flexibility


Adrien has earned a call to the Portuguese National Team. Many believe his inclusion is long-overdue

Adrien has earned a call to the Portuguese National Team. Many believe his inclusion is long-overdue

Paulo Bento announced today a 24 man squad for the Portuguese National Team’s inaugural Euro 2016 qualification match against Albania on September 7th. The squad is markedly different from the one Bento named for this summer’s World Cup, with the likes of Ricardo Horta, Ruben Vezo, Adrien Silva, Pedro Tiba, Bruma, and Andre Gomes all new to the team. Bento has been criticized for his lack of flexibility both in team selections and tactics in recent months, and has received much of the blame for Portugal’s sub-par showing at the World Cup this summer.

While it appears that Bento looks to be changing things around (which is something that many will agree desperately needs to happen), there are still some signs that Bento still has a long way to go. Ricardo Costa, who was on the Portuguese squad this summer in Brazil, is included in this squad, despite being 33 and playing in the middle east.

One of the biggest exclusions of this squad was of Ronaldo. The Real Madrid and Portugal star will miss out against Albania, after it was discovered that he was not in sufficient physical condition to appear for the Seleccao. The team will surely miss the talented Ronaldo, but one would hope that other players can step up in his place, especially against a team like Albania.

Squad


Goalkeepers: Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Eduardo (Dinamo Zagreb), Rui Patrício (Sporting)

Defenders: André Almeida (Benfica), Fábio Coentrão (Real Madrid), João Pereira (Valência), Pepe (Real Madrid), Neto (Zenit), Ricardo Costa (Al-Sailiya), Ruben Vezo (Valência), Antunes (Málaga)

Midfielders: Adrien (Sporting), André Gomes (Valência), João Moutinho (Mónaco), Miguel Veloso (Dynamo Kiev), Pedro Tiba (Braga), Raul Meireles (Fenerbahçe), William Carvalho (Sporting)

Forwards: Vieirinha (Wolfsburg), Bruma (Galatasaray), Éder (Braga), Ivan Cavaleiro (Deportivo), Nani (Sporting), Ricardo Horta (Málaga)

Portugal Crash Out of World Cup Despite Win


Cristiano Ronaldo - Portugal V Ghana

Portugal 2-1 Ghana

World Cup Group G

Despite performing much better and defeating Ghana 2-1 in their final World Cup group stage match, Portugal has crashed out of the tournament, edged out on goal difference by the United States of America. A very tough task to overcome a 4-0 defeat in their opening match, the team never managed to fully recover, drawing the United States in their next match. The team can now look towards qualifying for Euro 2016, which should be much easier than in previous tournaments, due to the increase in number of teams at the European Championships.

Paulo Bento had to choose a team which was still ravaged by injuries. Beto again resumed his spot in goal in place of the injured Rui Patricio. In front of Beto were the usual center back pairing of Bruno Alves and Pepe, the latter of which returned to the team after his one-match suspension for his antics in the Germany match. Joao Pereira set up shop on the right of defense, and in the absence of Fabio Coentrao, Miguel Veloso moved to left-defender, a clear sign of attacking intent from Bento. In the midfield, Bento dropped Raul Meireles to the bench, leaving a middle three of Joao Moutinho, Ruben Amorim, and William Carvalho. On the wings were the usual suspects of Ronaldo and Nani, with Eder starting up top.

In stark contrast to the team’s first two matches, Portugal performed quite brightly. One could say that they finally played to their potential. The game started brightly for the Portuguese, with many of the chances in the first part of the half going in Portugal’s favor. Ronaldo was closer to his scintillating form which played a big part in Portugal qualifying. And it was the Real Madrid man who was behind many of Portugal’s chances in the first half. Finally, Portugal was rewarded for their fine play just before the half. Some sublime skill from Joao Moutinho set up a cross for Miguel Veloso. His cross was whipped into the box, only for Ghana defender John Boye’s botched clearance to loop into the back of the net. That own goal gave Portugal a well-deserved 1-0 lead coming into the half.

Knowing that a loss would eliminate them from the competition, Ghana pressed more in the second half. Despite chances coming to both sides, it was Ghana who struck next. A beautiful cross from Andre Ayew fell perfectly to the head of Asamoah Gyan. His header slipped past an out-stretched Beto and into the back of the next to level the scores at 1-1. From that point onward, Portugal pushed forward in search for a winner. Despite being thwarted a number of times by Ghana’s goalkeeper, Portugal finally found their winner through their captain and talisman, Cristiano Ronaldo. Nani fired a cross into Ghana’s box. A miscued header sent the ball straight up into the air. When the ball fell down, Ghana’s goalkeeper, with his first mistake of the night, punched the ball directly to Ronaldo, who fired the ball home. After that goal, Portugal continued pressing, and could have extended the scoreline further, if it wasn’t for heroics from the Ghana goalkeeper and profligacy in front of goal. That was how the game ended: a 2-1 Portuguese victory, but it was not enough for the team to progress in the tournament.

Beto(Eduardo), Joao Pereira(Varela), Miguel Veloso, Bruno Alves, Pepe, William Carvalho, Ruben Amorim, Joao Moutinho, Nani, Ronaldo, Eder(Vieirinha)

HIGHLIGHTS HERE

Last Gasp Goal Spares Portugal Blushes


photo courtesy maisfutebol.iol.pt

photo courtesy maisfutebol.iol.pt

Portugal 2-2 United States

Group G

World Cup

A last-minute goal from Silvestre Varela gave Portugal a 2-2 draw against a bright United States side in both teams’ second World Cup match. An early goal from Nani set Portugal on their way, but two second half goals from Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey gave the United States a deserved lead. But in the last play of the game, a Ronaldo cross found the head of Varela, who headed home with aplomb. The manner in which Varela scored is reminiscent of his last gasp goal at Euro 2012, when he came off the bench to score the goal that gave Portugal the win over Denmark. Though they managed a draw, the United States outplayed the Portuguese, and one could argue deserved to win the match.

Portugal are in Group G with Germany, United States, and Ghana; a group aptly labeled the “group of death.” In Portugal’s first game, the team fell hard 4-0 to Germany. From events stemming from the first match, Portugal were without starters Pepe, Rui Patricio, Fabio Coentrao, and Hugo Almeida, who were all unavailable for the match due to suspension or injury. This meant that Portugal’s starting lineup was something of a patchwork one, with Andre Almeida and Ricardo Costa replacing Fabio Coentrao and Pepe in defense respectively. Rui Patricio was replaced by Beto, while Helder Postiga resumed his starting role up top in place of the injured Hugo Almeida. Though their fitness was in question before the start of the match, Ronaldo and Bruno Alves both started for Portugal.

The game started very brightly for Portugal, with the team taking the lead after just five minutes. Miguel Veloso fired in an early cross, which was unsuccessfully cleared by Geoff Cameron for the United States. His botched clearance fell to the feet of Nani, who fired home for Portugal. It was Nani’s 15th goal for Portugal and his first in a major tournament for Portugal. And it was Nani who was the brightest Portuguese player for the first half of an hour. Portugal dominated possession, with the United States content on chasing the ball and counter-attacking incisively when Portugal turned over the ball. The game ebbed and flowed, with the United States gaining force as the first half was drawing to a close. Portugal was happy to counter, and came very close just before the half, only to be stopped by a pivotal save from USA goalkeeper Tim Howard. Nani picked up the ball on the right hand side and fired in a shot from outside the box. His effort struck the right upright post and fell to the feet of Eder (who had been brought on earlier for the injured Helder Postiga). The Braga man’s shot was expertly saved by the diving American goalkeeper. It was perhaps the save of the tournament and was definitely a huge let-off for Portugal. The team was up 1-0 at the half, but many questions surrounded their play, as the United States had begun to find their rhythm.

The United States, perhaps aware of what needed to be done, came out much more aggressively in the second half. And if it weren’t for a last-ditch tackle from Ricardo Costa ten minutes after the restart, the United States would have tied the game. The Valencia man was in the right place at the right time to expertly block Michael Bradley’s shot. Though Portugal got off that time, the message was clear. The United States were pressing more and more, and as a result looked the better team. Portugal looked poor and were struggling to cope with the increased pressure. And just ten minutes later, both teams got what they deserved. A rocket of a shot from United States midfielder Jermaine Jones thundered into the back of the net to level the scores for the two teams. The goal was a deserved one from the United States, whose play had warranted a goal. Portugal attempted a response, but the team was sluggish going forward and sloppy in defense. And then karma hit again. Around the 80th minute mark, the United States struck once more. The Americans ripped the Portuguese defense apart, and were rewarded by a Clint Dempsey goal. With the score at 2-1 advantage United States and Portugal looking unable to fire a response, many thought the game was over. Americans were shown dancing and celebrating their team’s (assumed) victory over one of Europe’s finest teams. But few remembered that this is the World Cup and anything is possible. And few could have predicted what happened next.

Around the hour mark, Silvestre Varela was substituted in for Raul Meireles. Before that point, Portugal had been playing in their favored 4-3-3 formation. Ronaldo, as usual, was given the freedom to roam from his starting position on the left wing. Though he could roam, he was largely stuck to the position of left-winger, and consistently popped up in attack on the left side of the field. Once Varela was substituted in, the team essentially moved to a 4-4-1-1, with Ronaldo given the freedom to roam as a sort-of attacking midfielder. This move was designed to give Ronaldo more freedom and to hopefully give Portugal the push to score a goal and spare the game. And it worked. Literally in the last seconds of the match, as the United States fans were celebrating their assumed victory, Ronaldo picked up the ball on the right wing. After beating his man, he fired in a perfect cross, which met the head of Varela and thundered into the back of the net to tie up the game at 2-2. USA fans were silent, and this time it was Portugal fans’ turn to celebrate. Though their team had been largely disappointing for the entire match, the Selccao managed to salvage a draw and keep their hopes of qualification to the next round alive.

Beto, Joao Pereira, Bruno Alves, Ricardo Costa, Andre Almeida(William Carvalho), Miguel Veloso, Raul Meireles(Varela), Joao Moutinho, Ronaldo, Nani, Helder Postiga(Eder)

HIGHLIGHTS HERE


 

So what does this mean for Portugal’s chances? First, let’s take a look at the Group G table as it currently stands:

Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
 Germany 2 1 1 0 6 2 +4 4
 United States 2 1 1 0 4 3 +1 4
 Ghana 2 0 1 1 3 4 −1 1
 Portugal 2 0 1 1 2 6 −4 1

Portugal has a very poor goal difference because of their heavy 4-0 drubbing from Germany in their first match. To have any hope of qualification to the next round, Portugal first has to defeat Ghana and Germany has to defeat the United States. If Germany and the United States draw, they both advance and Portugal is eliminated. Let’s look at some results that would put Portugal through to the next round:

Portugal 2-0 Ghana, United States 0-4 Germany

Portugal 3-0 Ghana, United States 0-3 Germany

Portugal 3-1 Ghana, United States 1-5 Germany.

Portugal 8-0 Ghana, United States 1-0 Germany (very unlikely)

Essentially, Portugal needs a miracle. 

Portugal Crush Ireland: Selecao Not a One-Trick Pony


Ronaldo - Portugal vs Ireland 2014

Portugal 5-1 Ireland

International Friendly

Portugal finished their pre-World Cup tour of America in possibly the best fashion with a 5-1 demolition of Ireland at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. Goals from Hugo Almeida (2), Fabio Coentrao, Vieirinha, and an Irish own goal contributed to the win. The wide winning margin was exactly what many speculated the team needed, after tepid performances against Greece and Mexico. The game saw Ronaldo, Raul Meireles, and Pepe all return to fitness after being out injured recently. And indeed our captain Ronaldo looked healthy and dangerous; exactly the two qualities the team needs from him most next week when Portugal kick off their World Cup campaign against Germany.

Portugal coach Paulo Bento returned to his favored 4-3-3 formation. Returning to his no.1 position in goal was Rui Patricio. In front of him were Ruben Amorim (who is adept at playing at right-back) and Fabio Coentrao on the wings. In the middle of defense was Neto and Ricardo Costa, who were presumably fill-ins for Bruno Alves and Pepe. In midfield, Bento chose William Carvalho, Raul Meireles, and Joao Moutinho, who will most likely be the starting trio that represent Portugal’s midfield next week. On the wings were a fit-again Ronaldo and Varela. They were joined up top by Hugo Almeida. Regulars Bruno Alves and Joao Pereira were given a rest for the match, but all signs are pointing toward them starting in the Seleccao’s first match against Germany next week.

The game started off brightly for the Portuguese. Within the first few minutes, the team was already 1-0 up. Great defensive work from Ruben Amorim released Varela on the right wing. The winger sent in a peach of a cross, which was met by the head of Hugo Almeida. After getting somewhat of a cushion in the form of that goal, Portugal seemed largely content with Ireland getting a hold on proceedings. But as is so common, Portugal attack against the run of play. Though Ireland was threatening, Portugal had a very good chance to double their advantage on the 13 minute mark. Some good work from Ronaldo opened room for a shot, which was parried by the Ireland goalkeeper. The rebound fell to Varela, who had the presence of mind to pick out the onrushing Raul Meireles. The midfielder’s fierce shot was well-saved, and the ball went behind for a corner kick. From the resulting kick, Hugo Almeida came within inches of doubling Portugal’s lead. From that point forward, it was largely one-way traffic. Ronaldo hit the post with another of his wonderful trademark free kicks minutes later, and it was the Real Madrid man who played a bit part in the second goal. A run forward from Coentrao was picked out by a wonderful back-heel pass from Ronaldo. The left-back crossed, and the ball took a fortunate deflection off Ireland defender Richard Keogh and looped into the back of the net. Portugal continued to press, and were rewarded once again fifteen minutes later. Varela sent in a peach of a cross, which was met by the head of Ronaldo. The star man’s header was pushed away by the Irish goalkeeper, but Hugo Almeida was there to apply the finishing touch. It was the team’s third, and Almeida’s second of the night. That proved to be the last clear-cut chance of the half. Both teams went into the locker room with Portugal leading convincingly 3-0.

As could be expected, Ireland caused Portugal headaches early in the second half. And the Irish were rewarded for their hard work just 6 minutes after the restart. A well-worked set piece set winger James McClean free on the right. A simple cut-in allowed him the space to fire home past Rui Patricio. Later in the second-half, as is typical in international friendlies, there was a mass substitution. Among the players to leave the field was Ronaldo, who had performed admirably though not fully fit. Nani replaced the Real Madrid forward and was at the heart of the rest of Portugal’s forays forward. Ireland continued to threaten, and seemed determined to improve upon the momentum from their goal. Portugal managed to hold them off, and counter struck in the 77th minute. A superb cross-field pass from Joao Moutinho was taken perfectly in stride by Nani, who was motoring down the left wing. The winger took his time, and picked out the run of Vieirinha perfectly. The Wolfsburg man’s header was well saved, but he made no mistake with the rebound, shooting past the Ireland goalkeeper to record his first goal for Portugal, and stretch the scoreline to an impressive 4-1. And it was Nani at the heart of Portugal’s final goal just a few minutes later. The winger picked up the ball on the left wing once again, and instead of pressing forward, stalled a bit, and picked out the on-rushing Fabio Coentrao. The Real Madrid defender poked the ball home impressively with his right toe, and just like that, Portugal were up 5-1. And soon after, Nani was once again at the heart of another Portuguese move, and possibly one of the most exciting of which all night. The winger picked up the ball on his favored left side, and made a mazing run, playing one-two pass after one-two pass with his teammates before laying the ball off to Joao Moutinho. Moutinho dinked through a wonderful split ball to Vieirinha, whose square pass was back-heeled into the net by Nani. Alas, the wonderful move was correctly adjudged to be offside, but the point was clear. Portugal can be a mesmerizingly wonderful team.

Click here to see the chance.

Much of the talk lately surrounding Portugal has been over the fitness of star man Cristiano Ronaldo. The buzz is warranted. Ronaldo won World Player of the Year for 2013, and is fresh off winning the Champions League with Real Madrid. His performances for Portugal under Paulo Bento have been nothing short of spectacular, recently surpassing Pauleta as Portugal’s all-time leading goalscorer. He is undoubtedly an important piece to the puzzle. But he is not the puzzle. Yes, he is the best player in the world. Yes he has the ability to change games; to improve the quality of  play; to make a difference. But pundits under-emphasize the importance of the team around him. Portugal, as a collective, is one of the most complete sides in the world currently. The team that Portugal will likely field against Germany is almost identical to the one that was named when we faced Germany at Euro 2012. The team has played together for years now, and is well-versed in the formation and tactics that Paulo Bento uses. But Portugal is not stagnant. The team has a good mix of youth and experience. Players such as Rafa and William Carvalho are wild-cards. Having not been in the international spotlight for their talent can be an asset for Portugal. Other teams won’t exactly know how to handle Rafa at full speed or William Carvalho at full-stretch. I think for people to label Portugal as a one-trick pony, and the trick to be Ronaldo, is a mistake. There is much more to a team than one man. This game highlighted this point well. Ronaldo was involved directly in two of the goals (the second and third), but Varela carved out a chance for the first goal. Nani made the chances for the other two goals. A no-Ronaldo Portugal is still capable of playing beautiful, flowing football. Ronaldo is important, but just as important are the collective around him.

Rui Patricio, Ruben Amorim(Miguel Veloso), Neto(Pepe), Ricardo Costa, Fabio Coentrao, Joao Moutinho, William Carvalho, Raul Meireles(Andre Almeida), Ronaldo(Nani), Varela(Vieirinha), Hugo Almeida(Helder Postiga)

HIGHLIGHTS HERE

Paulo Bento Names 23 for World Cup Squad


Paulo Bento

Paulo Bento announced yesterday a list of 23 players that will represent Portugal at this summer’s World Cup. Seven players who were included in last week’s 30-man squad announcement were dropped. Some exclusions were predictable. Some not. Let’s look closer.


 

Final Squad

Goalkeepers: Beto (Sevilla), Rui Patricio (Sporting), Eduardo (Braga)

Defenders: Bruno Alves (Fenerbahce), Pepe (Real Madrid), Joao Pereira (Valencia), Fabio Coentrao (Real Madrid), Neto (Zenit), Ricardo Costa (Valencia), Andre Almeida (Benfica)

Midfielders: Raul Meireles (Fenerbahce), Joao Moutinho (Monaco), Miguel Veloso (Dinamo Kiev), Ruben Amorim (Benfica), Rafa (Braga), William Carvalho (Sporting)

Forwards: Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Helder Postiga (Lazio), Hugo Almeida (Besiktas), Nani (Manchester United), Eder (Braga), Varela (Porto), Vieirinha (Wolfsburg)

 

Standby players (dropped players): Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Rolando (Inter), Vitorino Antunes (Malaga), Quaresma (Porto), Andre Gomes (Benfica), Joao Mario (Vitoria Setubal), Ivan Cavaleiro (Benfica)


 

Statistics

(2014, 2010, 2006)

Average Age of Squad: 28 years old, 27.8 years old, 27.9 years old

Average Caps of Squad: 35.9 caps, 27 caps, 34.5 caps

Number of Players from Liga Zon Sagres: 7, 10, 8

Number of Players from Premier League: 1, 3, 6

Number of Players from La Liga: 6, 6, 2

Number of Players from Serie A: 1, 0, 1

Number of Players from Ligue 1: 1, 1, 2


 

Analysis

Goalkeepers:

The inclusion of Rui Patricio and Beto are completely warranted. Few can argue that both Patricio and Beto are two of Portugal’s most in-form goalkeepers at the moment. Beto is coming off a successful season that saw him win the Europa League with Sevilla (and saving two penalties in the shoot-out in the final). Rui Patricio is already established as Portugal’s no.1, and his performances for Sporting Lisbon did nothing to hurt that this season, leading the Lisbon-based team to a second-placed finish in the Liga.

The last goalkeeper spot was between Anthony Lopes and Eduardo. While Anthony Lopes enjoyed a decent debut season for Lyon, establishing himself as the team’s starting goalkeeper, Eduardo has World Cup experience. During the previous World Cup, Eduardo was Portugal’s starting goalkeeper, and lest we remind you that his performances at the last World Cup earned him a move abroad to Genoa. While Anthony Lopes has an extremely bright future, and his performances this season may merit inclusion, the decision to choose Eduardo over him is one that I understand and agree with.

Defenders:

Bruno Alves, Pepe, Joao Pereira, and Fabio Coentrao are all staples in the Portuguese team. Pepe and Bruno Alves have flourished at Real Madrid and Fenerbahce, respectively. Alves played in 25 league games, helping Fenerbahce to their first Turkish League title since 2011. Though Real Madrid didn’t manage to win the title this season, Pepe performed admirably in 30 league games, firmly establishing himself as a starter. While Fabio Coentrao didn’t receive as much playing time as he may have liked, he did perform well when he did manage to get a game. According to WhoScored.com, Coentrao managed a 6.96 match rating in the 15 games he participated in in all competitions. While this is nothing spectacular, it shows that Coentrao has the ability to play at the top level, an ability he has shown time and time again while donning the Portugal jersey. His inclusion is a no-brainer. Joao Pereira is another player whose previous performances for the Seleccao merit an automatic call. Currently playing at Valencia, Pereira managed 25 league appearances, as the team only finished 8th in La Liga.

Ricardo Costa has proven himself in a Portugal shirt in the past, and though he 33 years old, he is still an important part of both Valencia and the Seleccao. This was an interesting decision from Bento. Rolando, who spent this past season on loan at Inter from Porto, performed admirably in the Serie A. Some would argue that this season was his finest of his career to date. An outcast at Porto, Rolando managed 29 appearances at Inter, a team many would argue are among the best in Europe. I think the issue of experience is the factor at play here. This World Cup will be Ricardo Costa’s third, while if Rolando was included, it would be his second. Costa also played more of a part in qualifying, most notably scoring in the team’s 1-1 draw with Israel. Moving to Russia, Luis Neto enjoyed a wonderful sophomore year at Zenit. Though the team were pipped by CSKA Moscow for the Russian Premier League title, Zenit performed well this season, and Neto was at the heart of the team’s defense, completing the season with 25 league appearances. The inclusion of Andre Almeida was an interesting one, but one that makes sense once thought about. Many have clamored for Cedric Soares, of Sporting Lisbon, to be called, and for good reason. Cedric impressed for the Portugal U-20 team as they finished runners-up to Brazil at the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup, then for Academica on loan from Sporting, then the Portugal U-21 team, and finally Sporting’s first team. This season, Cedric was the undisputed starter at right-back for Sporting, amassing 28 league appearances in the process. Andre Almeida, on the other hand, only managed 10 appearances in the league for Benfica. Why should Almeida be included over Cedric you may ask? This is why. Andre Almeida began his career in midfield, but has been transformed into a solid right-back. Also capable of filling in at left-back, Almeida has extreme versatility. By calling up Almeida, Bento essentially did not need to call up another left-back, due to Almeida’s versatility. This meant that there were more spots open for other attackers. Also, Almeida participated in three finals (two domestic Portuguese cups, one Europa League final). In addition to this, Almeida was a part of a title-winning team in Benfica. Cedric, while he performed magnificently for a Sporting team which managed a second-place finish, is simply not the best choice. There will come a time for Cedric, but this World Cup is not it.

Midfielders:

The core of Portugal’s midfield in Joao Moutinho, Miguel Veloso, and Raul Meireles are all obvious choices, though some not quite as obvious as in the past. Joao Moutinho has established himself as one of the finest box-to-box midfielders plying his trade in Europe at the moment. His performances for Monaco further proved it this season. Helping Monaco to a second-place finish in Ligue 1 this season, Moutinho made 31 league appearances in the process. His performances for the Seleccao have been nothing short of wonderful lately, and many are looking to Moutinho to continue making the Portuguese midfield “tick” at this summer’s finals. Raul Meireles and Miguel Veloso have lost a considerable amount of stock lately. Though they have both put in performances ranging from solid to spectacular for Portugal in recent years, their performances have begun to noticeably decline.  While Raul Meireles helped Fenerbahce win the Turkish League this season, Miguel Veloso only managed 20 league appearances, as Dynamo Kiev finished a disappointing 4th in the Ukrainian League. Even though Veloso and Meireles are noticeably on the decline, their spot is a certainty, due to prior performances. Even if they do not start, they offer a great deal of experience off the bench. William Carvalho, though he’s only appeared twice for the Seleccao, is another obvious inclusion. Carvalho’s performances this season for Sporting Lisbon have been nothing short of astounding. A virtual unknown before the start of the season, William Carvalho is now the subject of transfer speculation, most notably from Manchester United, who allegedly have a 37 million pound transfer in the works. And it’s no wonder. Carvalho won four of nine Liga Zon Sagres Player of the Month awards and six of nine Liga Zon Sagres Young Player of the Month awards. Many are clamoring for Carvalho to take Miguel Veloso’s spot in Portugal’s starting eleven as the midfield’s anchor. It certainly wouldn’t be a surprise.

Rafa is a slightly surprising inclusion to the team. An extremely attack-minded midfielder, Rafa made the move from Feirense to Braga at the beginning of the season, and has absolutely flourished in Braga. Teams such as Roma and Southampton are hot on his tails, and for good reason. Though Braga’s season went south very quickly, Rafa’s performances were certainly not a disappointment. The midfielder’s inclusion naturally comes at the expense of another. Josue made a highly-anticipated move from Pacos Ferreira to Porto at the beginning of the season. A regular under Porto coach Paulo Fonseca, Josue has found playing time and form very hard to come by since Fonseca was sacked. Many view Josue to be the successor to Raul Meireles in Portugal’s midfield, but it appears that that definitely won’t occur during this World Cup. Bento’s final midfield inclusion is perplexing for most: Ruben Amorim over Adrien Silva. Adrien Silva has established himself as one of the finest midfielders in Portugal at the moment, and some would argue he’s one of Portugal’s finest midfielders. Silva is in a similar position to Cedric. Silva was an integral part of Sporting’s team which finished second in the league this season, and many are rightly perplexed by his omission from the squad. Adrien is yet to make an appearance for the Seleccao, while Ruben Amorim has managed 10 appearances thus far in his career. Though Amorim is older, he has more experience on the national level for Portugal, while Adrien has none whatsoever. Amorim, like Andre Almeida, is a much more versatile player than Adrien. Amorim can fill in at right-back aptly, and can also fit in anywhere in the midfield. Ruben Amorim was also part of a team which won the domestic treble, and also participated in the Europa League final. Though he only made 17 league appearances this season, Amorim gained priceless experience at Benfica. This is not to say Adrien deserved to be included; just that Amorim is perhaps a bit better qualified. Adrien Silva will certainly have his time after the World Cup. Not to forget anyone, Andre Gomes and Joao Mario are both very talented players with bright futures ahead of them, but with all respect to Paulo Bento, their inclusion in the 30-man provisional list is laughable.

Forwards:

Ronaldo is really the only staple in Portugal’s forward line. The forward has enjoyed yet another wonderful season, scoring 31 goals in 30 games for Real Madrid, a statistic that normally is otherworldly. But for Ronaldo, it’s just another season. Nani, Hugo Almeida, and Helder Postiga are all favorites of Paulo Bento, and though none have enjoyed fruitful seasons respectively, they still have the ability to offer something for the Seleccao. Nani’s season at Manchester United was a mix of injury and lack of form, combining into a horrendous season, even worse than the rest of Manchester United’s season. Hugo Almeida enjoyed a decent season at Besiktas, managing to put the ball in the back of the net 13 times in 31 appearances. Helder Postiga’s season was not quite as fruitful as Almieda’s, but not as disastrous as Nani’s. After moving from Zaragoza to Valencia in the off-season, Postiga established himself as Valencia’s starting striker following the sale of Soldado to Tottenham. Only scoring three goals, most notably scoring two against Barcelona, Postiga was sent on loan to Lazio, where he has struggled with injury, and has only managed five appearances with no goals. Moving to the wing position, Varela has enjoyed another successful season at Porto. The winger amassed 48 appearances in all competitions, as Porto finished third in the league behind Benfica and Sporting. Few can forget Varela’s wonder-strike in Portugal’s group stage game against Denmark at Euro 2012. His goal gifted Portugal the victory, and many will hope that similar super-sub feats can be achieved by him this summer in Brazil. The final winger included in the squad is Wolfsburg’s Vieirinha. After starting the season promisingly, Vieirinha suffered an injury that has kept out until last month. Now fully recovered, Vieirinha  managed a handful of appearances for Wolfsburg before the season ended. The final striker spot on the call goes to Eder, of Braga. After enjoying a wonderful season for Braga last season, Eder could not manage to replicate his form this season. Only scoring three goals this season, Eder never fully recovered from a loss of form due to injury. Can he find his form this summer? He might have to if/when Almeida and Postiga don’t perform. Can you sense my cynicism?

Cavaleiro and Rafa Earn First Senior Calls


Rafa - Braga Preseason 2013-2014Paulo Bento announced the squad today for the Portuguese National Team’s upcoming match against Cameroon, to be played on March 5th. With Helder Postiga and Eder both injured, Bento called on Edinho, currently on loan at Kayseri Erciyesspor from Braga. Should Edinho make an appearance for the Seleccao, it will be his first in almost 5 years. Bento also took the opportunity to call up Rafa and Ivan Cavaleiro, who have both impressed for the Portugal Under-21 team and Braga and Benfica, respectively. Other surprise inclusions were Miguel Lopes, who has enjoyed a successful season on loan at Lyon from Sporting, and Rolando, who has established himself as a starter at Inter, where he is on loan from Porto. Paulo Bento did not call up Rui Patricio, who is undoubtedly the team’s first-choice goalkeeper, instead opting to call up Eduardo, Beto, and Anthony Lopes, most likely to test out who the second-choice will be.

Here’s the full list:

Goalkeepers: Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Beto (Sevilla), Eduardo (Braga)

Defenders: Fábio Coentrão (Real Madrid), Miguel Lopes (Lyon), João Pereira (Valencia), Pepe (Real Madrid), Neto (Zenit), Ricardo Costa (Valencia), Rolando (Inter), Antunes (Málaga)

Midfielders: Josué (Porto), João Moutinho (Mónaco), Miguel Veloso (Dínamo Kiev), Rúben Amorim (Benfica), Raul Meireles (Fenerbahce), William Carvalho (Sporting).

Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Edinho (Kayseri Erciyesspor), Hugo Almeida (Besiktas), Ivan Cavaleiro (Benfica), Rafa (Braga), Silvestre Varela (Porto)

Portugal Edge Luxembourg


Luxembourg 1-2 Portugal

Portugal were lucky to beat a defensive-minded, physical Luxembourg team today. This game marked the beginning of qualification for the 2014 World Cup for both teams, and both were looking for a positive result. Portugal were riding high after their positive showing at Euro 2012 and their victory over Panama last month, while Luxembourg were the wild card, as ever.

Surprisingly, it was the hosts who started the brighter of the two teams. Left midfielder Joachim shot just over for Luxembourg, before Daniel Da Mota opened the scoring in spectacular fashion. The striker’s first touch out of the air took him around Joao Pereira, and he shot confidently past Rui Patricio. The goal was certainly a wake-up call for the Seleccao, as they began to press harder. Luxembourg poured more men back on defense, but were certainly not content on keeping the score at 1-0. Fifteen minutes after Luxembourg opened the scoring, Ronaldo tied the game up at 1-1. Some chaos on the edge of Luxembourg’s box allowed Joao Moutinho to poke the ball to Ronaldo, whose shot bounced in off the post. Following the goal, Portugal’s play improved considerably. Ronaldo came close with a free kick, and then hit the post after a wonderful lob from Raul Meireles. Soon after, Helder Postiga had a wonderful header saved by the goalkeeper. That was how the half ended: 1-1. Portugal’s play was noticeably improved, but a goal had not come yet.

That goal came soon after the second half commenced.  Joao Moutinho played a ball over the top for Helder Postiga, who side-footed the ball past the keeper to make the score 2-1 in Portugal’s favor. After the goal, the game was badly officiated, as Luxembourg became more physical by the minute. Both the side referees and main referee made blatantly incorrect calls, mostly in Luxembourg’s favor. Nevertheless, Portugal controlled the rest of the match, kept their head, and ground out a victory.

Rui Patricio, Joao Pereira, Pepe, Bruno Alves, Fabio Coentrao, Miguel Veloso(Varela), Raul Meireles(Custodio), Joao Moutinho, Nani(Ruben Micael), Ronaldo, Helder Postiga

Man-of-the-Match: Ronaldo

Crutch-of-the-Match: Miguel Veloso

HIGHLIGHTS HERE

Portugal Defeats Iceland in Goalfest


Portugal 5-3 Iceland

Portugal have raised the eyebrows of many with their slightly unconvincing 5-3 victory over Group H minnows Iceland. The game started off perfectly for Portugal when they took the lead through Nani. A corner was taken short to Eliseu (who was the starting left-back), who hit in a low cross, which Nani deftly got his head to and redirected the ball past the Icelandic keeper. Nani then doubled his tally and Portugal’s lead when he pounced on a very poor clearance from an Icelandic defender and tapped the ball past the onrushing keeper. Portugal appeared to be cruising by this point. The team was hassling their opponents and causing them to make mistakes. Portugal looked to run away with the game. That theory was strengthened when Helder Postiga added Portugal’s third of the night after he connected with a pinpoint Bruno Alves cross. That is how the half ended: 3-0. Portugal’s complete domination was no surprise, and many were looking forwad to more goals in the second half. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what they got.

The second half started off very well when Cristiano Ronaldo’s shot cannoned off the crossbar. Many interpreted this as a sign of what was to come. Iceland pulled a goal back soon after the restart, when Jonassen headed past Rui Patricio. The goal was largely a product of Rolando’s poor defensive work, which was also the problem when Iceland socred again. A corner was whipped in for Iceland, and Jonassen was there again, this time at the near post, to poke the ball into the net. With a 3-2 scoreline a bit too worrying, Portugal put their gear into hyper-drive. Eliseu raced down the left flank excellently and cut the ball back for Joao Moutinho, whose one touch shot hit the back of the net. That goal was only Moutinho’s second goal for the Seleccao, despite being an undisputed starter in the team for some time. Portugal didn’t stop there, however. Eliseu opened his account for Portugal and made the scoreline 5-2 when he scored the goal of the match. Eliseu, a naturally left-footed player, curled his right-footed shot on the edge of the box past the Icelandic keeper to give Portugal some breathing room. But the scoring was not over. Rolando added to his disappointing display when he fouled Bjarnason in the box. Sigurdsson converted the penalty with ease to make the final score 5-3. Portugal will now face Denmark on Tuesday in their final Euro 2012 qualification match.

Rui Patricio, Joao Pereira, Bruno Alves, Rolando, Eliseu, Joao Moutinho, Carlos Martins(Ruben Micael), Raul Meireles(Miguel Veloso), Nani, Ronaldo, Helder Postiga(Nuno Gomes)

 

Man of the Match: Eliseu

Crutch of the Match: Rolando

 

 

Cristiano, Ruben Dropped, Andre Pires Drafted In


Valencia goalkeeper Cristiano has been released from the Portuguese Under-21 training camp due to injury. Rui Jorge, the current Under-21 coach, has announced that he will not call up a replacement for the shot-stopper. Mika and Luis Ribeiro will now vie for a starting spot, a spot that Mika will most likely get. Both the goalkeepers were a part of the Portugal U-20 team’s recent runner-up finish at the U-20 World Cup. Mika was voted the best goalkeeper of the tournament, while Luis Ribeiro failed to make a single appearance. The choice doesn’t look a hard one.

Elsewhere in the squad, Ruben Ferreira, of Maritimo, has also been released due to injury. The left-back has been in great form this season for Maritimo, easily holding down a starting spot. Belenenses left-back Andre Pires will take his place. Pires made his debut for the U-21 team earlier this season against Slovakia.

Portugal 4-0 Spain – Match Report


Three words describe how I feel: In Your Face. I don’t want to sound aggressive, so I am sorry if I come across that way. I have a friend who is an avid Spain fan. He always gives me grief after the Seleccao under-perform. So, as you can gather, I was quite giddy with this win. What Portugal fan wasn’t? This was quite possibly the greatest performance from the Portuguese National Team. The game started off well, with Portugal enjoying most of the ball. Portugal showed quite a will to win, something that Spain did not show. That was the difference. As stated earlier, Portugal started off well, and were the first to make the difference. Too bad it didn’t count. Carlos Martins fed the ball to Ronaldo, who was allowed space to run. Ronaldo easily tricked Pique(I think) and after producing another neat step-over, lobbed the ball to the goal. The ball was about to go in when Nani flew in and headed it into the goal. The linesman incorrectly said that Nani was offside when Ronaldo lobbed the ball, and the goal did not count. This was a huge disappointment, but it was also a sign of thing to come. The first goal duly came soon after wards after Carlos Martins played Ronaldo to the corner. After the Real Madrid man juked-out the Spanish player, his shot was punched away by Casillas. Helder Postiga redirected the rebound to the onrushing Carlos Martins, who made no mistakes with his finish. With Portugal continuing to dominate, they added a second just minutes later. Good movement between Raul Meireles, Joao Moutinho, and Joao Pereira left Moutinho clear in the box. He squared the ball to Helder Postiga, who cleverly backheeled the ball into the back of the net. That was how it ended for the first half. Spain were threatening, but they were also finding it difficult to weather the storm that was Portugal’s attack. The second half started well, and Helder Postiga added another goal to Portugal’s tally after Moutinho smartly back-heeled the ball to him. Spain were in a state of shock, but were still not playing with any conviction. It looked as if Portugal were going to walk away with a comfortable 3-0 victory, but after Pepe played Almeida through in stoppage time, the scoreline was increased to a staggering 4-0. That was how it ended. Both Portuguese and Spanish fans alike were astounded. This victory will go down as one of the Seleccao’s most famous. Spain, who are World champions, were just beaten by four goals to nil. That’s right Portuguese fans, bask in it.

Eduardo(Rui Patricio), Bosingwa, Joao Pereira, Bruno Alves, Ricardo Carvalho(Pepe), Joao Moutinho, Raul Meireles, Carlos Martins(Manuel Fernandes), Nani(Paulo Machado), Helder Postiga(Hugo Almeida), Ronaldo(Danny)

Rui Patricio and Paulo Machado also made their debuts for the Portuguese Senior Team.

Match Highlights